Monday, August 17, 2009

Cornelius Eady: Did I wake you?

For a while now, when I log on to Facebook, I land on Cornelius Eady's profile. (A Facebook user usually lands on her own profile or home page.)

Eady is only a few years younger than I am, but there are differences between the two of us, at least superficial differences. He is black, and male. I am white, and a chick.

When I see his face where I expect to see mine (or one of the Tex Avery cartoons I sometimes substitute as a profile picture) I am momentarily puzzled; I'm also thrilled. Eady's published six books, while my first book just got its first review. He co-founded an organization for black poets - Cave Canum, and his biography on, the Poetry Society of America site, quotes snazzy June Jordan on his poetry chops:

"Cornelius Eady leads and then cuts a line like no one else: following the laughter and the compassionate pith of a dauntless imagination, these poems beeline or zig-zag always to the jugular, the dramatic and unarguable revelation of the heart."

Okay, already. But you know, I was black once. It was only for a few seconds, but it was real, albeit confusing. This happened one morning about ten years ago. I was tired, groggy and aching to pull up the covers. Unfortunately I had to work.

I had my small pleasure mapped - a stop at a local bakery for coffee and a muffin on the way to the subway. The glass door to this bakery served as a mirror when the sun was just so; I turned to my left, expecting to see my full-body reflection and verify I was wearing work clothes and not pajamas.

I didn't see the Sarah Sarai I expected. I saw a lovely, young black woman, well-dressed and happy. She was a golden person. Golden people glow. They just glow.

In my groggy state, that's who I thought I was, a lovely young black woman. And golden, too. My first thought was, How will I explain this to René? René is my niece, and also a lovely black (or mixed race whatever all or any of this means) woman. I didn't worry René would be angry - she has teenagers and an extremely productive life and doesn't spend time thinking about Sarah Sarai's racial composition - but I did feel I owed her an explanation.

Go figure. I guess I assumed my nephew, her brother, Mark, could take this in stride. He's a musician. You know musicians.

After what seemed like an eon of staring - and blocking the woman's path - I saw she'd opened the bakery door, I was me, and she was a lovely young woman on her way to work. I laughed - I love my idiocies, I do - and told her my mistake - that expecting to see myself I'd thought she was me or I was her or we were one.

She thought I was funny. I thought her every detail of dress and demeanor was perfect, and that she probably never woke up late or groggy. That had been part of my surprise - my personality transformation. I was tickled to have tickled her. On a bad morning, making someone happy is a good thing.

Cornelius Eady, did I wake you?

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